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Calling Our Spirits Back from Wandering: Meet Joy Harjo, New US Poet Laureate

June 25, 2019
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Father’s Day 2019 Full Moon at Refugio State Beach north of Santa Barbara, CA c. Gwendolyn Alley

For Calling the Spirit Back from Wandering the Earth in Its Human Feet
by Joy Harjo

Put down that bag of potato chips, that white bread, that bottle of pop.

Turn off that cellphone, computer, and remote control.

Open the door, then close it behind you.

Take a breath offered by friendly winds. They travel the earth gathering essences of plants to clean.

Give it back with gratitude.

If you sing it will give your spirit lift to fly to the stars’ ears and back.

Acknowledge this earth who has cared for you since you were a dream planting itself precisely within your parents’ desire.

Let your moccasin feet take you to the encampment of the guardians who have known you before time, who will be there after time. They sit before the fire that has been there without time.

Let the earth stabilize your postcolonial insecure jitters.

Be respectful of the small insects, birds and animal people who accompany you.
Ask their forgiveness for the harm we humans have brought down upon them.

Don’t worry.
The heart knows the way though there may be high-rises, interstates, checkpoints, armed soldiers, massacres, wars, and those who will despise you because they despise themselves.

The journey might take you a few hours, a day, a year, a few years, a hundred, a thousand or even more.

Watch your mind. Without training it might run away and leave your heart for the immense human feast set by the thieves of time.

Do not hold regrets.

When you find your way to the circle, to the fire kept burning by the keepers of your soul, you will be welcomed.

You must clean yourself with cedar, sage, or other healing plant.

Cut the ties you have to failure and shame.

Let go the pain you are holding in your mind, your shoulders, your heart, all the way to your feet. Let go the pain of your ancestors to make way for those who are heading in our direction.

Ask for forgiveness.

Call upon the help of those who love you. These helpers take many forms: animal, element, bird, angel, saint, stone, or ancestor.

Call your spirit back. It may be caught in corners and creases of shame, judgment, and human abuse.

You must call in a way that your spirit will want to return.

Speak to it as you would to a beloved child.

Welcome your spirit back from its wandering. It may return in pieces, in tatters. Gather them together. They will be happy to be found after being lost for so long.

Your spirit will need to sleep awhile after it is bathed and given clean clothes.

Now you can have a party. Invite everyone you know who loves and supports you. Keep room for those who have no place else to go.

Make a giveaway, and remember, keep the speeches short.

Then, you must do this: help the next person find their way through the dark.

Congratulations to Poet Joy Harjo, member of the Muscogee Creek Nation, who will become the first Native American U.S. Poet Laureate this fall. Harjo is a poet and a musician who says: 

“You hit words together with rhythm and sound quality and fierce playfulness,” Harjo told NPR in describing her poetry and writing process. 

According to NPR, Harjo’s goals as the country’s 23rd poet laureate consultant in poetry include bringing about   “a healing of people speaking to each other, with each other.” She sees poetry exchanges as a way to accomplish this:

“I really believe if people sit together and hear their deepest feelings and thoughts beyond political divisiveness, it makes connections. There’s connections made that can’t be made with politicized language.”

 

Let us call our spirits back from wandering. Let us gather around a kitchen table. This is how we could save the world. 

JH_Photo_JoyLarry_KarenKuehn_1
Photo: Karen Kuehn

According to the about page on her website, “Joy Harjo was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma and is a member of the Mvskoke Nation. Her seven books of poetry, which includes such well-known titles as How We Became Human- New and Selected PoemsThe Woman Who Fell From the Sky, and She Had Some Horseshave garnered many awards.  These include the New Mexico Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers Circle of the Americas; and the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America.”

Learn more about Joy Harjo’s books and music on her official site. Watch for her latest book of poetry coming out this August, An American Sunrise will be published in August.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Fran Stewart permalink
    June 25, 2019 12:16 pm

    This is beautiful, Gwen….Thank you for sharing

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